When Louisville took the field Wednesday afternoon for the start of spring practice, Cantwell was the man under center – and in charge of the Cardinals offense. It was a surreal experience really, what with Brohm watching from the sidelines.
But the UofL offense – as much as can be surmised without contact – didn't appear to miss a beat. Cantwell, with a cannon for an arm, looked sharp throughout practice, completing passes all over the field. He threw deep, he threw short, he threw hard and he threw with touch.
"Today was a great day. We've been training really hard and you could feel the energy as the guys got out here, put the helmet on and play a little football," Cantwell said. "It was a good first day. We had voluntary throwing all winter and I think that really helped us today. We looked sharp."
While Cantwell doesn't have the luxury to throw to wide receivers Harry Douglas, Pat Carter and Mario Urrutia or tight ends Gary Barnidge and Scott Kuhn, the strong-armed 6'4, 235-pound senior is confident his new receiving corps can get the job done next season.
"We've got a great bunch of wide receivers – not a lot of well known guys but all of them can play," said Cantwell. "I think after this year they are going to be household names. Scott Long, JaJuan Spillman, Trent Guy, Doug Beaumont, Chris Vaughn and the list goes on. We're pretty deep. These guys are pretty fast, have great hands and they're hard workers. It hurts to lose Harry and Mario but I think we've got guys who will jump in and step up."
Cantwell looked particularly sharp during seven on seven drills, rarely, if ever, missing a pass. But that doesn't mean he's going to rest on his laurels.
"I'm not ever happy with any part of my game," Cantwell said. "I'm always going to work on improving my arm strength and accuracy and on speed and movement outside the pocket. I'm going to continue to get in the film room and continue to know this offense inside and out and be able to run it just as smooth as Brian did. I think that's what I'll be looking to improve this spring."
While Cantwell didn't see much action last season behind Brohm, Cantwell is 3-1 as a starter throwing for over 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has gained valuable experience while serving as Brohm's backup the past three seasons and spent the off-season preparing for his huge opportunity this coming season.
"I definitely got stronger and faster," Cantwell said. "I feel like I really got into watching a lot of tape. Watching film of Brian play is obviously a great example of how this offense should be run and how a great quarterback plays at this level. So just to watch him and get in the film room and learn that aspect has been a really big help.
"I really made a point to watch Brian, see what he was doing and break down the tape. He's a great example and you'd like to play more but I've had some game experience and just getting those mental reps I'm not worried about it."